Episode 159 contains the notable Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of May 1-5, 2023.

1. Google Updates Guidance For Cross-Domain Canonicals – Google has updated its help documentation for canonicalization. It removed a line about syndicated content and also updated a line about noindex to prevent selection of a canonical page within a single site. Per Google,  “The canonical link element is not recommended for those who wish to avoid duplication by syndication partners, because the pages are often very different. The most effective solution is for partners to block indexing of your content.”

But first, let me explain what canonicalization actually means. A canonical tag (aka “rel canonical”) is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. Using the canonical tag prevents problems caused by identical or “duplicate” content appearing on multiple URLs. Practically speaking, the canonical tag tells search engines which version of a URL you want to appear in search results. A cross-domain canonical is when the duplicate page appears on an entirely different website (domain).

Previously, Google has recommended you use the canonical tag for syndicated content even though it was a hit or miss

2. Video Description In Structured Data Is Now Optional – The description of the video is used to help Google understand the video, but it is no longer a requirement for video structured data. But Google still recommends doing it. Google updated the “description” property from “required” to “recommended” in the structured data documentation.

Please fill out the description if you can.

3. Google: Clarification On E-E-A-T – Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison said on Twitter, “Our existing documentation does explain E-E-A-T and YMYL in the context of how they should be considered by content creators seeking to produce helpful, people-first content. It’s all on this page.

Remember, Google has been saying for years now that there is no E-A-T (or now E-E-A-T) algorithm, but Google does have factors and signals it looks for that align with the values around determining content that demonstrates E-E-A-T.

The page Danny linked to says, “Google’s automated systems are designed to use many different factors to rank great content. After identifying relevant content, our systems aim to prioritize those that seem most helpful. To do this, they identify a mix of factors that can help determine which content demonstrates aspects of experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, or what we call E-E-A-T. While E-E-A-T itself isn’t a specific ranking factor, using a mix of factors that can identify content with good E-E-A-T is useful.” Google’s example says its “systems give even more weight to content that aligns with strong E-E-A-T for topics that could significantly impact the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society. We call these “Your Money or Your Life” topics, or YMYL for short.””

So again, E-E-A-T is important, but optimizing for it directly it not really possible. You can however write content that demonstrates those qualities and Google should understand that and reward that type of content. But there is not one specific thing to do, it is many things signals that Google uses to determine if a piece of content demonstrates experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, aka E-E-A-T.

4. Google: How To Accelerate Website Indexing – During May’23 Google SEO office-hours Q&A session, a concerned website owner inquired about the slow indexing of their 16,000-page site. Google Search Relations team member Gary Illyes explained that indexing speed depends on several factors, the most crucial being the quality of the site and its popularity on the internet. Illyes suggested that website owners ensure their content is of the highest quality possible to increase the indexing speed. High-quality content is essential as Google’s algorithms prioritize it when determining indexing priority. However, the definition of high-quality content extends beyond the mere text of individual articles.

According to Google’s John Mueller, the quality of content encompasses the overall website, including its layout, design, integration of images, and page speed. These elements contribute to a positive user experience and are key factors that Google considers when assessing quality.​

Illyes also recommended that once you ensured that your content is the highest quality you can possibly make, try to run some social media promos perhaps so you get people to start talking about your site. This is what he had to say, “How fast a site is indexed depends on a bunch of things, but the most important one is the quality of the site, followed by its popularity on the internet. Once you ensure that your content is the highest quality you can possibly make, try to run some social media promos perhaps so you get people to start talking about your site. That will likely help.”

Reading between the lines, so backlinks, links from external websites to your site, contribute to faster indexing and improved search engine rankings. And Technical SEO (optimizing a website’s structure, code, and page speed to meet search engines’ crawling and indexing requirements) is crucial.

5. Google: Focus On Content Quality Over Posting Frequency – Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller, recently engaged in a candid discussion on the r/BigSEO subreddit, addressed the question of blogging frequency. 

The problem with trying to keep a frequency up is that it’s easy to end up with mediocre, fluffy content, which search engine quality algorithms might pick up on, and then assume the whole site is like that. Taking risks like this in the beginning when it’s easy for you to start over is probably fine, doing that in the long run will be painful when it catches up to you. (All of this applies even more if you’re taking short-cuts with gen-ai content).

So folks, prioritize creating unique and compelling content over maintaining a consistent posting schedule.

6. Google: Avoid Outdated Link Building Strategies – Google’s John Mueller made it very clear that you should avoid outdated link building strategies such as SENuke or PBN’s.

The concept of SENuke and similar link-building tools is that you blast loads of (usually rubbish) content all over the internet, to get backlinks. And a private blog network (PBN) is a group of websites that only exists to provide backlinks to other websites. The purpose of a PBN is to manipulate Google to improve a site’s Google search rankings. PBNs clearly violate Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines and can result in harsh penalties. Google’s link spam guidelines state: “Any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search results may be considered link spam. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.” So, PBN’s clearly fall within this guidance.

7. Google: Disavowing Links Based On Third-Party Metrics Is A Terrible Idea – When John was asked if one should disavow links based on those pages being under a certain score from a third-party tool, John said no. John wrote on Twitter, “That seems like a terrible idea.” “Also, none of those metrics are things Google cares about, as any SEO tool will tell you… hopefully,” he added.

8. Google: Links From Spammy Sites Are Not TrustWorthy – In the May 2023 Google SEO office hours, someone asked “If a domain gets penalized does it affect the links that are outbound from it?” To that question, Duy Nguyen from the Google Search Quality team said “I assume by penalize you mean that the domain was demoted by our spam algorithms or manual actions. In general, yes, we don’t trust links from sites we know is spam.” 

This is common knowledge however it is good to have someone from the spam system say it so clearly.

9. Google: “Coming Back Soon” Pages For Site Migrations – Google’s John Mueller wrote on Twitter, “I’d try very hard to avoid having a “coming back soon” page during a revamp. I don’t think you’d gain a lot by bouncing it back & forth.” “If you need it for <1-2 days, I'd just 503. For anything longer, it's going to be painful regardless of how you do it," he added.

Back in 2009 John said something similar, saying, “Tip of the day: If you have a generic “your site will be hosted here soon” page, use “noindex” or 503 result code, thanks!”

But John is now clarifying that the 503 should not be used for more than a couple of days. In fact, previously, John said 503s are for hours, not a solution for something that will take place for weeks.

FYI: A 503 Service Unavailable server status code is to be used when the server is currently unable to handle the request due to a temporary overloading or maintenance of the server. It is a good method for temporary downtime and to help Google know that your site is not completely offline but rather, it is just a temporary thing.